Bill Weld was governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997.

President Trump says “2020 will be the most rigged election" in our nation’s history — because of mail-in ballots. He also claims, with absolutely no substantiation, that “millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries.”

I’ll leave it to others to point out the irony of his warning about foreign intervention in a presidential election.

So what is really worrying him? As Trump has said out loud, he’s afraid that he’ll lose the election in November if too many people vote.

At every opportunity, Trump is conjuring unsupported claims and issuing warnings about the evils of absentee voting. He does so despite the fact that absentee voting has been around since the Civil War and that, increasingly, states both red and blue are not just allowing but also encouraging citizens to vote by mail.

Public support for voting-by-mail was in place long before the novel coronavirus came along. In the past week, Colorado and Utah conducted successful, smooth primary elections almost entirely by mail, with strong turnouts and no need for voters to stand in unhealthy lines. For a highly contested June 23 primary, Kentucky’s Democratic governor and Republican secretary of state worked together to make absentee voting less cumbersome. It worked, and turnout was at near-record levels. Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both won their primaries with thousands of mail-in votes. The only problems Kentucky encountered resulted from the covid-19-driven consolidation of in-person, Election Day polling places.

Many states have well-established mail-in voting and absentee options, and with covid-19 raging, others are prudently taking steps to make absentee voting more accessible. Polls show nearly 80 percent of voters support giving all voters the option of voting in person or voting absentee. That includes a majority of Republicans — the president’s paranoia notwithstanding.

Even if Trump doesn’t care, voters do care. Especially when it comes to elderly citizens, those with health challenges and those of us who are simply concerned about infecting others, forcing voters to choose between safety and exercising a right that is fundamental to American democracy is just wrong, and potentially deadly.

Would there be massive fraud in November, as Trump proclaims? No system is perfect, but there is no evidence that absentee voting is less secure than other methods. To the extent that individual states need assistance and funding to put systems in place, Congress and the administration should help make the necessary resources available. After all, what is more important to protecting the U.S. Constitution and system of government than fair and safe elections?

Trump has convinced himself that if too many Americans vote, he will lose in November. On that point, he is surely right. But any attempt by the administration to suppress votes or hinder the election would be outrageous, un-American and ought to be investigated.

To my fellow Republicans, I plead with you to not follow Trump off this cliff. A political party that brands itself as the party of exclusion, disregard for citizens’ safety and thinly veiled vote suppression is not a party with a future. When Trump says Republicans can’t be elected with mail-in voting, he isn’t concerned about anyone other than himself. Republicans all across the country have prevailed in elections for years in states that allow easy absentee voting and even hold elections conducted almost entirely by mail.

Preserving the right of Americans to vote safely and confidently is so much bigger than this president or any other. If we force voters to choose between safety and exercising a precious right, the political consequences for Republicans will far outlast the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

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